Reflectionson Poverty Prepared by the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development
A way has to be
found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not
simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied
with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of
justice, fairness and respect for every human being.[i]
~ Pope Francis
Those who are hungry, homeless and without a job are our brothers and
sisters, members of God's family. As disciples we can appreciate that their wellbeing
is linked to ours, and understand God's concern that their basic needs are met,
and that their full participation in society is necessary.
Well over forty million Americans live in poverty. There are more than
twenty million unemployed and underemployed workers searching for a decent job.
These are people in our families, neighborhoods and parishes. Persons living in
poverty are especially vulnerable to hunger. The scandal of hunger,
about which Pope Francis has spoken, calls us to reach out to our hungry
neighbors, those the Lord speaks of in Matthew 25.
The God of creation and mercy inspires us to pursue justice and
solidarity. Families, communities, the market, and government must work
together to overcome poverty. All have a responsibility to respond generously,
patiently and creatively to the needs of those in our families and communities.
What can we do? Lots! We should be alert to the situation of those in
need and listen to their concerns. We can actively take part in charitable
works organized by our parishes and dioceses, and in the work of neighborhood
projects dedicated to getting food on the tables of those who are hungry.
Beyond providing for people's immediate needs, it's important to step
back and ask about the place of justice in our economy. Society has a basic
duty to ensure a just economy. We and our political leaders have a critical
role in balancing needs and resources, burdens and benefits. This includes securing protection for families
in economic distress, fair policies and access to resources that can secure a
The bishops of the United States have defined the moral criteria to
evaluate the allocation of our nation's resources: whether it safeguards or
compromises human life and dignity; how it affects "the least of these"
(Matthew 25); and how it reflects a shared responsibility to promote the common
good of all, especially workers and families.
As citizens and people of faith, we have a duty to take part in our
democracy in order to address the situation of exclusion which so many
experience. We should prayerfully consider the insights that faith offers on
all issues that affect the common good, especially issues of life and dignity.
On the issue of hunger, for example, we should
advocate for federal nutrition programs. According to Bread for the World, all the food that churches and charities
provide to hungry people is only about 6 percent of what is provided by federal
government nutrition programs. Churches cannot do it alone.
So plug in to the work of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development
and the projects it supports near you that work to advance both justice and
food security in the community. Get involved with the advocacy work of your
local diocese. Connect to the advocacy work of the bishops of the United States
in their efforts to protect essential poverty and hunger-eradicating programs
currently at risk in our challenging economy. Take time to learn more about how
Catholic social teaching speaks to the issues of hunger and economic insecurity
by visiting the resources below.
Most importantly, cultivate virtues of generosity, patience and
kindness. We should work to overcome any numbness in our hearts and temptations
to despair with prayer and acts of mercy and solidarity for and with those who
are suffering. As Pope Francis has said, we must have a "willingness to share
everything and to decide to be Good Samaritans, instead of people who are indifferent
to the needs of others."[ii]
Francis, Address Of His Holiness Pope Francis To
Participants In The 38th Conference Of The Food And Agriculture Organization Of
The United Nations (FAO),
June 20, 2013.
Questions for Spiritual Reflection in the Parish or in Small Groups
- Why does Pope
Francis call hunger a "scandal"?
- Reflect on God's
love and concern for those in need. What implications should this have for the
allocation of our nation's resources?
- As disciples, how
can we respond to hunger through charitable works? Through social justice? Why
are both necessary?